They’re paid like tycoons, but expected to stay humble.

Their performance is examined with microscopic meticulousness, yet must maintain childlike innocence.

After all, they’re just playing baseball.

No wonder Manny became Manny.

Such demands would drive us nutty, too.

Maybe the best hitter in modern Red Sox history took the first plane to the coast last week, courtesy of the club’s giveaway trade. Sure, a good replacement came in return (welcome, Jason Bay) but he’s no Manny Ramirez.

Nobody is. The eccentric outfielder made millions for his supernatural ability to strike a baseball and caused a million more migraines with his outlandish behavior. He was the quintessential tortured genius – tolerable, as long as his talents were displayed.

The show gets old, though. So Manny, being Manny, booked himself a one-way ticket, destination anywhere. His sudden departure raises one overarching question – whatever made Manny act this way?

The man has always seemed like a boy. But even the most immature should have the epiphany of adulthood eventually. Not Manny, though. He behaved like a kid, while playing a kid’s game. It’s just the stakes were a little higher.

But he’s a multi-millionaire too, replete with the arrogance and social insulation that sudden, financial independence can cause. He took nothing seriously, because it wasn’t necessary to do so. And those who paid his salary – the fans – lapped it up.

So there’s really no answer. Wealth, age and attitude, in some mix, can cause the precise reactions that can turn heroes into villains, idols into idiots and the icon-you-can’t-live-without into the farewell-you-magnificent-fool-you.

It’s our fault. It’s his fault. Manny was Manny.

He played like a boy, but was paid like a man. Should we be surprised he acted like a child?

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